Minister dismisses post-Brexit proposal for agrifood as 'insufficient' to replace the backstop

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin Newsdesk Newsdesk

A post-Brexit proposal for agrifood has been dismissed as insufficient to replace the backstop by Ireland's finance minister ahead of a meeting between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar.

Paschal Donohoe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "As of this point in time my understanding is that the detail of how this would work is yet to be fleshed out.

"But to any extent, to any point, this is something that only covers off a portion of the trade between the United Kingdom and on the island of Ireland and would not be a solution that would deal with all the other issues that we have to manage in terms of the flow of trade and also the protection of the Good Friday Agreement."

He also was not positive about the ability of a trusted trader scheme or new technology to prevent a hard border on the island.

"What I would say to those who are putting those ideas forward is we are yet to see examples of how they would work not only on our island but anywhere else in the world," he said.

"To be in a situation where we would have one part of our island inside the single market and the other outside the single market is a very, very testing challenge for alternative arrangements."

A former Supreme Court justice has said it would not be legal for Boris Johnson to apply for an Article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it.

Lord Sumption was asked if it would be legal for the Prime Minister to ask for an extension while rubbishing the request at the same time.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "No, of course it wouldn't. The Bill, or Act as it's about to become, says that he's got to apply for an extension. Not only has he got to send the letter, he's got to apply for an extension.

"To send the letter and then try to neutralise it seems to me, plainly, a breach of the Act.

"What you've got to realise is the courts are not very fond of loopholes."

Tory MP Nigel Evans said Boris Johnson is more likely to call for a vote of no confidence in his own Government or force an election via another means than to go to Brussels to ask for an Article 50 extension.

The joint executive secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs told Today: "I cannot see under the current circumstances Boris Johnson going to Brussels and asking for that extension."

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith tweeted: "Media speculation about me doing anything other than continuing to represent & work flat out for Northern Ireland is v wide of mark."

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts has said opposition leaders should be ready to impeach Boris Johnson if he tries to ignore legislation requiring him to seek another Brexit extension.

Ms Saville Roberts said that Mr Johnson had previously backed an attempt in 2004 to impeach the then prime minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war.

"Boris Johnson has already driven a bulldozer through the constitution, so no longer are ideas like impeachment far-fetched," she said.

"I will tell other opposition party leaders, we need to be ready to impeach Boris Johnson if he breaks the law.

"We cannot play the Prime Minister at his own cynical game. We need to be ready to fight fire with water, outsmart the smartest, think the unthinkable.

"No one is above the law, Boris Johnson shouldn't risk finding that out the hard way."

PA Media